Despite Obama administration officials’ original claims to the contrary, the New START treaty does address missile defense -- in the Preamble, no less. It states that there is a connection between offensive and defensive weapons and that our current system does not threaten Russia’s offensive weapons. The Russians want to keep it that way, and even submitted a unilateral statement to make perfectly clear that the treaty, “may be effective and viable only in conditions where there is no qualitative or quantitative build-up in the missile defense system capabilities of the United States of America.”
The Russians have made it quite clear that they will withdraw from the treaty if the U.S. builds a robust missile defense system. And the Obama administration knows this and wants ratification regardless.

As Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James N. Miller, Jr. casually admitted in his testimony, since the U.S. has only thirty ground-based interceptors and Russia plans to field over 1,000 ballistic missiles, Washington could build much more substantial missile defenses without appreciably challenging Russian forces. Yet President Obama is effectively promising President Medvedev he will ensure that the U.S. remains exposed to Russia’s massive nuclear arsenal. This was exactly what President Reagan intended to move us away from when he announced his plan to deploy defenses that would render all nuclear missiles obsolete.

Miller went on to explain that the Obama administration’s missile defense proposal, known as the European Phased Adaptive Approach, will not affect the U.S.-Russian strategic balance. PAA is Obama’s substitute for the Bush administration’s plan to establish permanent bases in Europe for interceptors similar to those we now have in California and Alaska. Even though the Bush plan would not have been able to defend the U.S. against Russian missiles, the Kremlin protested its deployment on grounds that it would.

The PAA will be deployed in four stages, the last of which will have the exact same capability that the Bush plan was going to have: The ability to knock down long-range missiles from Iran before they reach Europe or the U.S. And not only will it have the same capability, it will have added advantages because it will be sea-based, making it mobile and adaptable. If the Russians had a problem with Bush’s plan, they’re really going to choke on Obama’s -- unless of course they think he has no intention of following through on it.

As a senior Russian official told Nixon Center president Dimitri Simes, “I can’t quote you unequivocal language from President Obama or Secretary Clinton in conversations with us that there would be no strategic missile defenses in Europe, but everything that was said to us amounts to this.”

The Obama administration will be out of the White House by 2016 at the latest, and the PAA is not supposed to be completed until 2020. It is plausible Obama administration officials made a commitment to the Russians that they would not ensure the completion of the PAA in order to get the Russians to sign the treaty. There is already evidence of this. The first phase of the PAA includes deploying a radar to Europe by 2011. Yet the U.S. does not yet have an agreement with a European country to host the radar, and it is rumored that serious negotiations have not even begun. In other words, the PAA is already behind schedule and the administration doesn’t appear concerned. Under secretary of Defense for Policy, Michele Flournoy penned an oped  today declaring the administration’s commitment to the PAA. The best way to demonstrate this is to make it happen. 

Yesterday’s hearing did nothing to dispel the concerns of Senators who see restrictions on missile defense as a deal breaker for ratifying the New START Treaty. Interestingly, several Senators, including Jim DeMint (R-SC) and John ThuneJohn Randolph ThunePolls: Hiking estate tax less popular than taxing mega wealth, income Will Trump sign the border deal? Here's what we know Key GOP senator pitches Trump: Funding deal a 'down payment' on wall MORE (R-SD), have asked to see the negotiation records related to the agreement. They’re on to something.

Rebeccah Heinrichs
is an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and a former military legislative assistant for House Armed Services Committee member Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksArizona New Members 2019 Cook shifts 8 House races toward Dems Freedom Caucus members see openings in leadership MORE (R-AZ).